Star Trails over East Tennessee

Took a few minutes last night and captured this composite star trails image. I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I just sat my camera on the ground facing straight up. I’ve never tried these kinds of images before. It turned out pretty good, for a first attempt. I just have to remember to hit the shutter release next time between exposures.


Dunbar Caving

For the first time in many years the cave opened this summer for cave hikes. Of the 8 miles of cave passages, we only hiked about a quarter of a mile. It was very cool. 58° in fact.  When open up for tours again next summer. Be sure to check it out. Well worth it. 



smoke from torches


fallout shelter supplies


Kitchen Table Remodel Complete… Finally

We’ve had this little table since we first moved in back in 2007. It served us well when it was just me, Kayce, and Parker. Not so much anymore. After much searching online and in local stores, we couldn’t find a larger replacement that fit the casual look we wanted for a kitchen table.

Original Table (3×4′)

Since we like this table so much, I said to Kayce, “let’s just make this table bigger”.  So I did. A nice glue up of some very clear aspen panels and several coats polyurethane later. We had a table top. I cut the longer apron pieces and reused the legs and hardware. I only had to add a center support to the frame.


Aspen Panels

Glue up at Joe’s Shop (Thanks Joe)

Finished Top

Old Top Compared to New

Finished Table (4×6′)

Now, we had a new problem… No chairs for the ends. Again, we searched and searched and couldn’t find any chair that would match sufficiently. We also looked for benches, but found that they either didn’t match or were overpriced. So, again, I looked at the old table top, and decided just to make my own benches. With some parson style legs from Lowes and few pieces of 1×3 I had everything I needed.


Dry Fit

Many Coats of Paint

Finished Base

Completed Bench

Our “New” Kitchen Table

So, with mostly hand tools and for less than $400 we went from a 3×4′ table that seats 4 to a 4×6′ table that seats 8. And it’s solid wood, so it has many, many years of use a head of it. Hope you enjoyed this this photo diary of my project and hopefully, it will encourage you to tackle a project of your own.

High School Graduates, be prepared…

It’s that time of year, graduates all over the country are looking forward to the end of their high school days and the start of their “grown up” life. Be careful what you wish for. Watching our graduates commissioned yesterday reminded me what awaits  them. 

Many Christians find their faith challenged for the first time, sitting in some philosophy class, as a professor starts to poke holes in what they believe. A startling number of them will watch everything they thought they believed crumble in front of them.

Why? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I don’t believe we are prepared. While I didn’t necessarily have my faith rocked while in college, I definitely wasn’t prepared. I think we try to make it too difficult. 

 …Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…  (?1 Peter? ?3?:?15? NIV)

Where a lot of students (Christians) make their mistake is in trying to win an argument, or prove the Bible, or change someone’s mind. Leave the changing to the Holy Spirit. All we are called to do to give a reason for our hope.

Life causes us to doubt. But the foundation of your faith is not your personal experience. It’s better than that. We take the Old Testament seriously because Jesus did. We take Jesus seriously because of the resurrection. We take the resurrection seriously because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and James took it seriously.

This is something I was recently reminded of while listening to a message from Andy Stanley. Check out to hear more. 

Cutting the Cable

91LJJAQgPXL__SL1500_One night, almost 7 years ago, I had an epiphany while flipping through our over 100 TV channels. There was nothing on that I wanted to watch. The more I thought about it, the more I realized we probably spent more time looking for something towatch than actually watching. Add in the fact that most of the day there was no one home to watch anything, I began to wonder why we would pay money (a lot of money) for this service. So, we cut the cable. In its place we used a combination of over-the-air TV, Netflix streaming, iTunes, and Hulu. What we found, was instead of spending hours at night looking for something to watch, we were able to ACTUALLY watch something.Usually, exactly what we wanted to watch, and when we wanted to watch it. And without the giant cable bill.

Some Options for Cutting the Cable:

  1. Get a digital antenna and watch over-the-air channels with your digital capable TV.
  2. Connect a computer and wireless keyboard to your flat panel TV. You can use just like any computer monitor and watch Netflix, Hulu, or any other video content source you like.
  3. Get a phone adapter and stream from your smart phone. Be it Android or Apple, you can connect your phone to your TV and watch content streamed from palm of your hand. AppleTV, Roku, and Chromecast are some good options for this, as well, and AppleTV and Roku offer a standalone interface as well (no phone required).
  4. Use your gaming console (Wii, WiiU, Xbox, Playstation) to stream content.

Fast forward 7 years, most people know about Netflix, but are still a little confused about the over-the-air TV.Since the FCC’s 2009 decision to have all broadcasters switch to digital broadcasting, over the air signals have been broadcast (mostly) in high definition. What does this mean for us? Well, we can get many (20 or more) channels for free. Right now, you’re probably thinking about those old “rabbit ears” covered in aluminum foil and the constant readjusting to get a good picture. Yes, this is the same concept, but technology has made this method of getting TV signals so much better. In fact, of all the TV services we’ve had (Charter, DirectTV, CDE Lightband), our over-the-air channels are the clearest and highest quality. The kicker is, network channels like ABC, NBC, etc…, are in full HD.

channellistSo, “how do you get these free channels?”, you might ask. For us it was easy. I ordered an outdoor antenna and simply replaced our satellite dish. Done. It might not be so easy for you. Newer TVs have a digital tuner built in, so you won’t need a converter box, and if you leave near a large city you can probably get away with a set-top antenna. My suggestion is for you to check to see what channels you can expect to receive. It will also give a direction in degrees that will help you align the antenna for the best reception.

If you live farther away from the broadcast antennas (like us), you will need an outdoor antenna. My preferred brand is They have antennas for any installation situation. I like the DB2eantenna (pictured above). It has a range of about 45 miles, andworks well for us. You might need to go up to the DB4e for that extra range of 65 miles, depending on where you live. These antennas are much smaller than old outdoor antennas, about the same size as your average satellite dish.Once you find an antenna you think will work. I highly suggest purchasing from While Antennas Direct is the manufacturer, amazon has better prices (~$50 vs. ~$89 for the DB2e). As most houses are already wired for cable or satellite, it’s an easy task to connect the antenna to the existing wiring, do a channel scan on your TV, and enjoy the total absence of a TV bill.

Combine the over-the-air TV with Netflix or other video streaming service (Hulu, Amazon Instant, Youtube, etc…) and you have all the entertainment your family needs.


Teaching an Old Lens New Tricks

FotoDiox FD - EOS

FotoDiox FD – EOS

I’ve been playing around with some old lens and a Canon EOS camera the past few days. There are a ton of adapter on the market so you can mix and match cameras with different lens.  The adapter I’m trying out is the Fotodiox FD-EOS adapter.  In the photo you can see it mounted between the camera and an old Canon 70-210mm Zoom lens.  The adapter forces the camera into manual mode for your aperture and focus.  Which is fine, because these older lens didn’t have autofocus servos anyway.  I do enjoy shooting full manual, and this lens is fun to shoot with.

The adapter seems to shorten the focal depth, making it very shallow.  Which is fine as long as your subject is standing still.  Molly wasn’t standing very still, most of the time, but I still managed to get some good shots.

Fotodiox FD to EOS Adapter

Fotodiox FD to EOS Adapter

I shot these in Aperture Priority (AV) mode.  Even though the camera doesn’t know what settings are on the lens aperture, it still auto meters and sets the shutter speed for you. I have Canon 50mm FD lens, that I haven’t been able to get to work yet. It looks focuses in the viewfinder, but the actual photo is out of focus.  I may purchase a different brand of adapter and see if it does the same thing.  But for the zoom lens, it seems to work well.  And $40 is much cheaper an a new lens would cost!

UPDATE: The 50mm lens is behaving finally.  I realized I had the adapter in install mode instead of aperture mode. With the adapter in aperture mode, I was able to get some good shots.  The lens aperture setting was f/5.6, with a shutter speed of 1/250.  I had to use the camera in manual mode, as opposed to AV mode, to get the shutter speed high enough to not have any blur (I was shooting freehand). With some more experience with this adapter, I think I can get some really nice photos.

Below are some the shots I took with this rig.

Awesome long exposures from ISS

Via Flickr– Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

View the entire album here


Wicked Review…

WickedMy wonderful wife took me to see “Wicked” at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this past week.  I have always loved theatre, musicals, especially.  I have to say, I was let down by this production. My expectations may have been unrealistically high due to all the hype associated with this show, or perhaps, I’m just too picky. Either way, I didn’t leave the theatre humming the songs or on some mystical musical high. I left feeling a little empty.

I’d have to describe “Wicked” as a pop musical. Mostly filler, quick jokes, and witty nods to “The Wizard of Oz” make up the bulk of the dialog. The show has a clever enough premise, but I felt the music didn’t deliver a feeling of epic-ness, that you find in shows like “Les Miserables”.  Which is fine, I suppose. Everyone enjoys some cotton candy now and again. But I was looking forward to a steak, and instead, got mostly air, with some sugar mixed in.

The performance was good, not great. There were some missed lighting cues, and the follow spots had trouble keeping up. But overall, it was enjoyable. As I said before, I felt the show lacked a loftiness, it didn’t speak to my spirit.  It was… entertaining.

I’d give it 3 out of 5 broomsticks.



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